Spring 2014 Anime – Premiere Impressions

I’ll spoil one thing right now: this seems like it’s going to be a fantastic season. A couple nights ago, I sat down with my room mate and a friend of ours and plowed through every single anime of the new season that we thought looked interesting. Then I watched the late arrivals throughout this last week. While there were obviously some disappointments, and such utter atrocities that I wonder where some of these creators get their budget from, there was more than a handful of promising anime that I am more than happy to continue watching. And with a couple more still looming on the horizon, this season is shaping up to have something for everyone. However, let’s take care of the mundane first and start with the anime that sadly failed to make a believer out of me.

Blade and Soul ~Dropped~

Synopsis: Blade and Soul is about a revenge-driven warrior woman who finds herself in a village that ask her to protect them. This then catapults her into a war between mighty empires in a world with fantastic weaponry and magic.

As cool as that synopsis sounds, they sure implemented it poorly into a lackluster anime. The first turn off was the main character’s horrible emotionless persona. She felt entirely empty. It’s beyond stoic, stoic being something I actually appreciate. She’s simply just lifeless. I hear about it in a lot of anime that are based on video games because the game’s main character is usually a voice-less shell for the player to pilot and fill with their own emotions. That doesn’t work in anime form and they really should have spiced her up some more.

The second turn off was definitely the underwhelming action scenes, or more like action blips. They were very quick, and featured hardly anything a true martial arts fan would drool over. On the whole, everything just kind of disappointed. The music didn’t catch my ears at any time, nor did the character designs, which were unique to say the least, but not that appealing. In the end, the episode ended without much immersion for the viewer to get lost in nor any sense of a great plot beyond a character who wants revenge. A revenge that we don’t care about yet because the character has less life in her than the tree she inexplicably slept on all night.

 

Seikoku no Dragonar (Dragonar Academy) ~Dropped~

Synopsis: Kids are in a dragon academy. The main character has some kind of reincarnated entity with him…I think

I didn’t bother to explain the story, because it wasn’t really explained in the anime that well either. It’s pretty much full of sub-par characters, badly drawn dragons, and excessively large breast and butts that didn’t do anything but make me want the episode to end. There was some moments that seemed like they would be great, and then it just spiraled back into a mundane story of kids learning to ride weird dragon looking things. No epic action, though we did get a flying race. A really boring one at that.

Kenzen Robo Daimidaler ~Dropped~

Synopsis: I don’t really think that matters.

This is an off-the-wall comedy anime that has nothing I care for at all. It might as well be the worst anime on this list, however, it actually topped Blade and Soul because this anime made me laugh. Blade and Soul made me feel nothing. I only laughed at the sheer absurdity of what was going on, but there’s no way I’d ever sit through it again. It’s not my style, or my cup of tea. Penguin front tail penis jokes are the line. I’ll laugh…and then move on. There’s not much more to say on this one because the substance level of this anime is pretty much zero. It is funny…that much I will give it. If you like funny, then try it.

Haikyuu!! ~Dropped~

Synopsis: A young, determined boy starts a boys volleyball team with a bunch of uninspired apathetic class mates, but his burning desire to play his best hints that destiny is definitely shining on this amateur team.

I only watched this one because I will always believe that a sports anime can become phenomenal after watching Kuroko’s Basketball and falling in love with it. So first things first; it’s not Kuroko’s Basketball. Is there a chance that it could be? Maybe. There’s nothing inherently bad with the anime. It was inspiring, and the main character was extremely likeable. There was one scene where the main character really did look bad ass. There’s a lot here for a sports anime…just not an anime in general.

I’m not a fan of comparing one anime with the other, but I’m sure many are looking to fill the gap that Kuroko’s Basketball left us with this season. You may find some solace in this anime, but it lacks the incredibly smart story and the psychological aspect that Kuroko’s basketball has as well as a slightly less mature cast of characters. The art style isn’t as well drawn, and it also lacks the wonderfully effective music that Kuroko’s Basketball has which goes down as one of my favorite anime scores ever. However, if you do enjoy uplifting anime in general, this could be one you could get into.

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*The following are the anime that I’ll be continuing to watch counting up to my favorite!

Black Bullet

Synopsis: Black Bullet is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action anime that tells the story of a world ravaged by Gaestra that are infected humans that transform into giant insect-like creatures. In this bleak setting where the Geastra have been held at bay outside the city walls by a type of metal structure, there are girls who are born with the virus who have superhuman powers instead of transforming into the Geastra, and these girls are the ones the military/police are planning to use to defend their city against the Geastra.

Black Bullet was probably the one that I overestimated the most this season. I predicted it would be my favorite new anime of the season, and it didn’t even crack the top five. It was apparent quite early on that the episode was kind of a mess. The action was at least delivered quite well. Guns blazing and kicks flying, the episode performed greatly to create an exciting atmosphere at times. However, it felt like this anime was kind of being shoved down my throat. The pacing of the scenes, the outdated audio design that made me think my speakers were broken, and the unrealistic dialogue choice they used in order to fill us in on the situation did a poor job to introduce the world and the characters.

Also, the first infected girl they showed harbored almost none of my sympathy only because she was a very obnoxious girl who has a crush on her “brother” figure, who is the main character, which came off as highly unnecessary. However, with all these low points, there were also some things I did like. The art style is still on the better side of the anime world, but wasn’t quite as good as I expected it to be, mainly because the insect creatures look a bit too cartoony compared to the realistic ravaged city they are trying to portray.

They did jump right into it and introduce the villain in what is probably record time for this anime season. I appreciate the fact that they are trying to hurry the story along and won’t really fault them for that. The big twist came at the end of the episode where you see that there is apparently a large sum of these infected girls and the anime paints a somber scene of these innocent children sent to slaughter. We don’t know if that’s what they are going for, but that’s what I felt, and it was probably that last image that made me want to check on this anime next week as well.

 

Sidonia no Kishi (Knights of Sidonia)

Synopsis: In this futuristic world, a species called the Gauna inhabit the wild parts of space. The main character lives underground in Sidonia, a space station, and is barely scraping a living. He is then injured and hospitalized only to find himself awakened on the surface and enrolled in a pilot academy by a new mysterious legal guardian.

Knights of Sidonia is an impressive anime. It does a lot of things exactly right, and then it does a lot of things wrong. It’s an anime that I want to love, but just couldn’t find enough to grasp at to really get enraptured by this gritty sci-fi tale. To begin with, this anime sports a CG anime art style reminiscent of the Berserk movie trilogy that has me split right down the middle. On one hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen better mech sequences. The high production values add a ton of crisp detail and lighting that make them look incredible. On top of that, the anime has a very cinematic feel complete with a very professional orchestral score and edgy camera angles. This anime knows how to do a bad-ass dark sci-fi style and that works for it very well.

And then we get to the actual pilots and this is where the animation starts to suffer. For one, the characters move in stutters due to the high amount of detail in each frame so the movements actually look worse. Secondly, the facial animation, while detailed, makes them look hollow and robotic. They simply don’t feel human. While it’s ironic that some characters in this universe technically are artificial, what really matters is that a lot of emotional moments are only going to become awkward. It really makes you miss the fluidity and expression of hand-drawn animation. And then we have the story that doesn’t live up to the amazing visual fidelity of this anime. It’s rather boring, and quite aged in the fact that this story has been told time and time again. Unfortunately, while it has all the bells and whistles that I’d want in a mech anime, it’s lacking in every other department. I am still going to continue it, however, because I feel like no one should deny themselves the eye candy of these mechs.

 

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (Nanana’s Buried Treasure)

Synopsis: Far away on a marvelous island is a city built for students to pursue their wildest goals and dreams. The main character is a new arrival who find himself living in a cheap apartment with a playful ghost. This ghost turns out to have quite the treasure hidden away in this city that the main character is determined to find.

This is another anime that I didn’t plan on watching at first glance. My room mate said it was actually enjoyable so I gave it a shot, and I definitely felt it was satisfactory and offered a refreshing wave of adventure that a lot of anime this season are lacking. The anime has so far felt like a healthy mix of comedy and adventure, and what I appreciated most about it was how well it set up it’s premise. It introduced the characters and the setting incredibly well so that I didn’t feel lost in this fantasy city.

The ride wasn’t all smooth though. There’s an overabundance of fan service that did make me roll my eyes a bit. I don’t mind it, but when it was all expressed through the main character, it prevented me from relating to him all that much. He’s not the type of main character I typically like. The ghost, and titular character Nanana, is the stereotypical incessant nag, but she wasn’t that annoying. She only acts hyper briefly and otherwise just does cute quirky things, so she was actually quite fun. They set up a decent dosage of mystery that is definitely keeping me latched on to the next episode, but I don’t see the stakes getting all too high without some really strong punches on the story development end.

 

Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika: the Coffin Princess)

Synopsis: In this off-fantasy world, a young boy is foraging for food in the forest when he encounters a girl with a giant coffin on her back. She’s lost, so the boy helps her, only to then end up working for her with his sister on a rather grand mission. Also…the coffin has a sniper in it.

It sounds ridiculous and very unrealistic…but this anime actually was pleasant all throughout. It’s much more uplifting in tone, but the story is a bit more serious with it’s affairs. For one, the main character and his sister are enjoyable characters who aren’t dumb or bog down the story in any way. The same isn’t true of the Coffin Princess herself who has the potential to make or break the anime by being the title character, and pretty much the entire mystery. She is likeable, but we’ll see about bearable as we watch more episodes. Secondly, the magic/fantasy aspect actually seems pretty cool. From sniper rifles that act as magical staffs to incantations that imbue oneself with heightened strength and agility, they actually brought some intriguing things in the first episode.

There is also the bigger picture of the story. The political interactions the characters are wrapping themselves up in promise much more to the drama then who the coffin girl is. However, that mystery definitely amped itself up even more when a powerful villain found himself fearful of her, which is surprising to the main character because she seems clumsy and ditzy. I predict memory loss, but we’ll just have to find out for ourselves!

 

Mekaku City Actors

Synopsis: The story is told as a flashback about how two certain characters meet. It begins with the main character being a complete shut-in who hasn’t left his house in two years. He has a mysterious program that acts as a virtual girl within his PC and tablet. When a small setback forces him to go outside, he gets caught up in a hostage situation.

It’s tough to point out just exactly what this anime is about. It seems to be the type that leaves it’s plot lines open to converge all at once at the foretold moment. What has been shown now is a very imaginative art style and some interesting takes on the sci-fi mystery genre. The tone isn’t too dark, but it is definitely serious and most of the dialogue tends to be psychological or comedic in nature. The virtual girl character is supposed to be an annoyance to the main character but as of now she’s rather charming and cute to the audience. The main character shows some potential, with a small tease to what makes him so significant and what makes his personality likeable.

The story revealed itself at a rather slow pace, but the opening teased a lot of characters already and the hook is there to make you wonder how this mundane life of his turns into the seemingly abstract epic scenario the opening teased. There’s a lot I want to learn and so far every character has something mysterious about them. The virtual girl also positioning herself as a kind of “power” by attacking the computers of the people keeping him hostage was a pretty refreshing type of ability. The music and atmosphere feel like a quirky mystery that focuses on the intrigue of the unknown over the power of dramatic moments. It’s a similar premise to Durarara, in that it introduces pretty much the entire cast in episode 1, and the whole journey seems like getting to know them and the stories that develop between them. I could be wrong, but that’s what it feels like.

Akuma No Riddle

Synopsis: Akuma no Riddle is about a group of female professional assassins who are all after one girl. The main character happens to be one of these assassins and ends up having attractive feelings towards her target.

The episode started off strong with a well-animated action sequence showing the main character going through a training regiment. She’s already a bad-ass with a stoic attitude and a very dark mind, or maybe she’s just emo and I’m sugarcoating it. The tone immediately came off as dark and serious, with a bit of edgy romance teased by some of the rather erotic imagery. The focus is definitely more on the psychological aspects of the show rather than the seductive romantic teases they leave, but it still seems like it can go either direction.

Within the first episode we’re introduced to several assassins and they did a decent job with making them stand out. They don’t seem like the average character archetype and there’s already multiple cat fights just waiting to happen. The target that the heroine will supposedly fall for is sweet, loud, and just a tad bit annoying. She didn’t put me off though so that’s a good sign for me. I can’t stand when someone falls for a girl that simply irritates me. (Like when the Death god fell in Love with Misa in Death Note. WHY?)

The story seems pretty standard, but well-paced. It didn’t feel boring to me and there was enough with seeing all of the characters to make everything entertaining. They even managed to end it with a nice little cliffhanger that shows they are going for a bit of an addictive plot development early on. Finally, the art style is what’s really catching my eye. Cool, dark, colorful girls all with their own “killer” personality really grabbed my attention. There’s a slight feeling of the dialogue being geared towards things that fit in the day to day life of most girls such as painting fingernails that makes me feel, as a boy, outside of the target audience, but it didn’t really bother me too much. Girls with stylish clothes and dark personalities out on a murderous rampage is just what I wanted for the dark side of anime this season.

 

Captain Earth

Synopsis: Captain Earth weaves the inspirational hero tale of a young boy who gets thrown into his father’s admirable footsteps of being a mech captain.

There are two types of things I look for in any storytelling medium. First is the fresh feeling of an innovative or creative story that I just love to see explored. The other is to experience a familiar story, but in the best way possible with better characters, dialogue, music etc.  Captain Earth represents the latter. A very familiar super-hero type story, but full to the brim with excellent pacing and development. It’s the quality and aesthetics I wish a lot of anime had: the ability to instantly charm me and draw me in to the world. Jumping between his childhood and current time added a lot of wonder and mystery to the whole set up as well as the absolutely touching story of his childhood friend who mysteriously disappeared.

This is a mech anime full of destiny, fate, dreams, promises, and other strong emotional words that don’t sound as awesome when not watching the anime. I usually have a hard time with mechs but I’m confident that this show knows exactly how to entertain it’s audience. I give much credit to the director who clearly knows how to do his stuff well. But there’s always something to poke and pry at, and these Jesse and James of Team Rocket clones are in danger of adding a bit of stupidity to the anime. Let’s hope the hero conquers them by the end of the next episode!

 

No Game No Life

An older brother and younger sister stay at home all day playing games. That’s not to say they aren’t the dynamic duo behind “___” the unnamed and undefeated gaming team that’s taking the internet world by storm. They are so good in fact, that they are pulled into a fantasy world where everything is decided by games.

I didn’t intend to watch this and then a bunch of positive reception came flooding through my blog gates and I decided it’d be worth checking out. I am very glad I did because what I thought would be an immature and poorly thought out anime turned out to be one of the most psychologically driven anime of the season. The main characters both are prodigies in terms of calculation, risk, strategy, and tactics. The brother is adept at reading opponents and deceiving them while the sister is a literal mental calculator who does best against AI opponents. Together they create an extremely powerful, and downright bad-ass team. Then the anime introduces us to the fantasy world where everything is decided by games.

This part too was well thought out and I can tell that this anime is going to be full of clever mind games and ruses. The art style is the other most readily apparent quality. It’s definitely hit or miss with some people. It’s an overly bright and tinted color choice full of purple’s and pinks that may over-saturate you at some point. I know it did for me. However, beneath the odd choice of color tinting, the characters and worlds are actually drawn pretty well and I like the animation. Especially the epic scene of drawing a hand for a card game. The characters are also very interesting. Outside of their powers, they have an endearing brother-sister relationship that doesn’t go past the you-know-what line, and that really makes them all the more likeable.

 

Selector Infected Wixoss

Synopsis: A young girl who has trouble making friends gets introduced to a new card game that’s taking the world by storm. She’s then exposed to the virtual world the card game takes place in, as well as the horrors she might face within.

Just like the last anime, I initially shrugged this off as not worth my time. I then heard a lot of buzz about it and decided to try it, and I definitely see what all positive reception was for. Don’t let the synopsis underwhelm you, this anime’s first episode was brilliant. The main character is very sweet, and it starts off introducing her in a very effective way. She’s lonely, yet has a beautiful personality. You can’t help but feel sympathetic for her. She then gets introduced to the card game that I thought would ruin everything.

But it only made things better. For one, this isn’t a card game to take lightly. Instantly, a horrific image worthy of a true horror anime showed that we are in for a dark and stormy ride. The card game looks amazing in action. It’s more like being transported to a virtual world full of epic chaotic thunderstorms where the cards come to life and fight each other in actual avatar form. The main character’s avatar is the only annoying point in that she acts like a cute cat which could get old really fast. Besides that, everything about this anime is showing that they are making the most out of this story setting as possible. If No Game, No Life is the psychological anime about a virtual gaming world, then Wixoss is the dark one. And I am a huge fan of both intelligent and edgy anime.

 

Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness)

Synopsis: The main character is a young boy who feels responsible for the death of his childhood friend many years later, who believed in aliens so much that even after her death, he continues to observe the skies to see what she actually meant. Then, to his surprise a transfer student appears who looks almost exactly like her, but claims to not be her.

First off, I applaud this anime for having an instrumental only OP, and a very good one at that. This was another anime I had high expectations for, and luckily this one delivered. I would consider it a mystery with a bit of thriller considering lives are at stake in the very first episode. The pacing was instantly relieving for me. It has a slower momentum that allows the main character to show a bit of insight into how he thinks and what he feels. I love that kind of development. Then they take your calm interest and turn it into panic when they throw the surprise of the mysterious transfer student foretelling the death of a student in school.

The anime is quite pretty with a brilliant opening that instantly set me up to like and sympathize with the main character. It also made me laugh which completely caught me off guard, especially when I literally read “amazeballs” on my subtitles. Sure that credit might go towards the fansubbers, but it was on Crunchyroll so I consider it official. All in all, they set up the emotional brevity of the main character perfectly as well as already solving the mystery of whether the transfer student is really his old friend or not. The mystery of the aliens was alluded to, but the show doesn’t hinge on it. It’s perfectly capable of being entertaining just with the mystery at hand.

 

Isshuukan Friends (One Week Friends)

Synopsis: A young boy in school takes a liking to Kaori, a girl in his class who is always by herself. After she continually refuses him a friendship with a seemingly cold attitude, he learns that she’s actually a sweet girl. Unfortunately, this sweet girl has given up on befriending people because she tragically loses her memory of all her recent interactions every single week.

I literally rolled over continuously on the couch in the amount of sheer emotional weight this anime threw at me. The fuzzy feelings of cute politeness all the way to the harrowing thought of her losing all her memories kept me so emotionally entwined with the characters that I felt completely immersed. This was an anime that I was very careful to get into because it’s scenario is very evocative, and that could be done horribly wrong if one thing is out of place. Luckily, everything fit perfectly. The boy and girl are ridiculously adorable and likeable and the writing was very whimsical, yet realistic.

The art style is incredibly soft with a bright choice of colors and a simple design to the setting. However, it’s not a bad kind of simple, but one that just directs your attention to the characters and their conversations. This anime hit all the right notes for me and looks to be a great exploration of a sad memory loss situation. Get your tissues ready, I don’t think every episode will be so cheerful.

 

Mushishi

Synopsis: There are abstract lifeforms in this world unseen by most called Mushi. Ginko is a traveling doctor of sorts who helps people inflicted by problems with the Mushi.

For those just tuning in, this is a long-awaited continuation of my favorite anime. My biggest fear was that they wouldn’t recapture the atmosphere and mystical feeling of the first series. I didn’t have to dread anything because the anime is just as wonderful as the first. The calm, majestic and surreal aura that this anime gives is one of my favorite feelings. I mentioned in my last article that I would also talk about the OVA that aired last season to lead into this new saga of Mushishi.

The OVA was absolutely incredible. At merely twice the length of a normal episode, it packed in a terrific story full of symbolism and heart. There’s a reason it’s the highest rated TV special in anime history and among the top OVA’s in all of anime. It’s because this is storytelling at it’s absolute finest, at least to me. Mushishi’s ability to instantly draw you in to a new set of characters, complete with a new Mushi that has a drastically different effect is astounding and my number one reason for loving it every single episode.

While the first episode wasn’t one of the emotional ones. It was a perfect introductory episode that serves as a great source of information for newcomers, or a return to form for veterans. We still got see something new, yet it also taught us, yet again what these spectacular little creatures are. The music is as tranquil and ambient as ever, and Ginko is still the quirky, serious character I’ve come to admire. What I’m really excited for is to see the vast amount of imaginative scenarios and powerful stories this season will bring. Mushishi is an anime about emotion, nature, acceptance of things beyond your understanding, and most of all, to accept the unnatural, no matter how ill-fated it seems

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Continuing from last season…

Tonari no Seki-Kun

While I was really wishing that I’d have a new opening and ending clip to enjoy by this new season, I forgive this anime because it’s a short anime and it’s brilliant. The continued antics of Seki-Kun wasting time in the most creative ways in class continually make me laugh and reawaken the child in me. This time however, Seki-kun was portrayed as purely evil (in an elementary sense) by turning his food into animals and eating them with a cruel look on his face. It was hilarious and I hope these short episodes keep coming for a long time.

Hunter X Hunter

Goodness me, I don’t think I felt so touched by a characters emotional state like this in a long time. My favorite character, Killua, finally let himself go. I’m almost tearing up now just writing about it. He’s my favorite character because of how tragic he is, but to see him acknowledging his own worthlessness and literally break down and cry was more painful than I expected. The voice actor did a superb job to make the crying feel real and natural. The weakness of a lot of crying scenes in animation is the voice acting, I always thought. This episode was all about Killua, and it was great. Not because he broke down and cried, which was admittedly beautiful in it’s own way, but the fact that after his breakdown, he found a new inspiration. As I said in my article about Why I love sad and dark anime, it’s that inspiration coming after a moment full of despair that tends to be the strongest of all things I could experience, and Hunter X Hunter just gave me one of those moments. Well done.

 

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And that ALMOST takes care of the spring season. One that I’m curious about, M3, still hasn’t even got a premiere date yet, but they are still saying it’s coming this spring. Also, the new Fairy Tail is garnering tons of excitement but I’m still catching up on the old series (At the 77th episode at the moment) so I won’t start the new season yet! Same with the new Monogatari season. Atelier is another, which already premiered, but is having trouble getting an english subtitled version onto the internet. Regardless, there is already a ton of anime to watch with this list alone.

As always, thank you very much for reading. It means a lot that anyone takes time to read my thoughts. If you’re following the new season, what were your thoughts? Feel free to comment and discuss below!

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2 thoughts on “Spring 2014 Anime – Premiere Impressions

  1. Sub-par characters, badly drawn dragons, and excessively large breasts…. well at least there is one good reason for checking out that show 🙂 Great recap of the anime season. A very interesting read.

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